|2008 Presidential Vote: Georgia|
| McCain |
| Obama |
| Barr |
| Totals |
|*Source: Georgia Secretary of State|
One thing that I was interested in seeing was the amount of ballot roll-off* from the presidential race to the Senate race. In other words, who voted for president and then just skipped voting for the Senate race and/or all the other down-ballot races? The idea here is that if there were a significant number of Obama voters that didn't vote for Martin, then he 1) is already starting with a smaller base or 2) has some other potential voters to mobilize for the runoff election.
|2008 Senate Vote: Georgia|
| Chambliss |
| Martin |
| Buckley |
| Totals |
|*Source: Georgia Secretary of State|
What we see is that overall there were approximately 169,000 fewer votes cast in the Senate race than in the presidential race. But how we get to that 169,000 figure is an interesting sidenote. There were about 182,000 fewer Chambliss voters than McCain voters and 86,000 fewer Martin voters than Obama supporters. In the best case scenario for Martin, if he was able to mobilize all those Obama voters behind him, the former state
There are three wildcards here, though. First, we know that turnout is likely to be far lower on December 2 than it was on November 4. The above is a better (not best) case scenario for Jim Martin. But we know that all those voters aren't going to come back to the polls for the runoff. That means that attempting to handicap that turnout will help us to better understand how competitive the runoff will actually be. The other two wildcards will help us there.
What about those Libertarians? Native son and Libertarian presidential candidate, Bob Barr, wasn't able to sway all that many voters over into his corner. Barr was seen as a major potential factor in bringing Georgia into play for Obama, but after polling well over the summer, Barr's support wavered in the polls down the stretch. In fact, the Libertarian's senate candidate, Allen Buckley, polled much better on November 4, totalling about 100,000 more votes than Barr did in the presidential race. That can be chalked up to strategic voting. Buckley, slim though his chances were, had a better chance of winning that Senate seat than Barr did of winning the presidency.
For comparison's sake, I looked at North Carolina as well. Here's a state that had a competitive Senate race as well and has a pretty good base of Libertarian support. The outcome was very similar in the Tar Heel state. McCain and Obama crowded Bob Barr out in the presidential race, but Libertarian, Chris Cole did comparatively better in the Dole-Hagan Senate race. The roll-off in North Carolina was about a third of what it was in Georgia, but the Libertarians did around 100,000 votes better on the Senate level in both states' Senate races.
Well, what does all that mean? For starters, there are likely a sizable number of people who voted for McCain and Buckley who Chambliss could target in some way. I would imagine some reprise of the McCain campaign's socialism, big government, big spending liberal arguments could persuade some of those voters to participate in the runoff and vote for Chambliss.
The other wildcard will affect the turnout Jim Martin is likely to expect. And we talked about this one at the close of the previous post on this race. Very simply, how involved will President-elect Barack Obama be. Are 58-59 seats in the Senate better than 57, or does it even matter since 60 seats are basically off the table for the Democrats. If the 44th president feels like getting involved, Georgia is a place where there's the most potential for impact. Counting and recounting in Alaska and Minnesota, respectively, aren't arenas where Obama can make all that much difference. In a campaign, a newly elected president could make a difference.
And as we saw, there were a fair number of Obama voters who dropped off after that vote and didn't cast a vote in the Senate race. If the primary/general election campaign infrastructure that Obama had in place can be recharged to some degree, Jim Martin figures to be the beneficiary in the December 2 runoff.
And what about those McCain voters? Chambliss could activate some of those, right? Sure, I just think it is less likely than Obama voters who rolled off turning out for the runoff given the enthusiasm gap that was present before the election and the actual cumulative results from November 4. In any event, we aren't talking about a ton of voters here, but in a close race, those voters at the margins could prove consequential.
In the end, we can add a few more parts to the equation. We already knew about the likely turnout drop between the general election and the runoff, but now we can factor in -- at least in our thinking if not statistically in some way -- the possible influence those Libertarian and Obama voters from the original vote.
*One other cause for this ballot roll-off might have been the negative tone of the Senate campaign over the final weeks. There is some research to suggest that this has happened before. It could also be argued that the presidential race was also negative, but it isn't a stretch to say that it was outpaced in negativity by the Chambliss-Martin Senate race. Also, though Georgia got some last minute attention from the presidential candidates, neither campaign was focused too heavily on the Peach state despite the shrinking polling gap during the final week. That wasn't the case in the Senate race.
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